And an Opera Singer at That!

Alice Lymburner nee Campbell & NormaLet’s find out a little about Alice Campbell, the mother of Norma Lymburner, who was born 24th February 1870 in Auckland New Zealand, the second child of Neil Campbell and Ann Greene.

Members of her family were:

Keturah; Alice; Neil; Augustus; Jessie and Zeno. Her older step-sisters were Matilda; Emily and step brother George Frederick. I will add more about the step-sisters in another post.


Birth of Alice Campbell

It is not known when Alice took on the name of Zenobia, however it appears from future records that she became known as Zenobia Campbell, then Zenobia Lymburner.

Zenobia was 23 when she married Charles Lymburner in Adelaide, South Australia in 1893, however prior to them being married, Zenobia and her family were living in Fremantle, Western Australia for a time. Newspapers from 1887 are filled with articles and advertising of the concerts that she and her sisters Keturah and Jessie and one of her brothers, would put on to raise money either for grand piano’s or distressed families.

Nanna (Norma Lymburner) would often tell us that her mother was a good singer and on talking to Ernie Cripps, he remembers his grandmother singing around the house at Mumby, when he was a young boy. She was a contralto singer, he said, and some of these articles confirm that. It was said that she sang at the opening of the Fremantle Town Hall, which is situated on the corner of High, William and Adelaide Streets. The opening coincided with the celebration of Victoria’s Jubilee and occurred on June 22, 1887.

If Zenobia was singing at the town hall, she no doubt would have been there or in the vicinity when my 2nd times Great Grandfather John Snook (on my mother’s side) was shot through the neck and died a couple of months later. His nephew, William Conroy, was convicted of wilful murder and hung at the Perth Gaol.

Zenobia continued to sing after her marriage broke down as we saw in the last post regarding the case for maintenance, that after Charles left to go away on business, “she had to earn her living as a barmaid and a singer, and also did sewing.”

Below are some of the articles from the newspapers when Zenobia, Keturah and Jessie and their brother performed their concerts.

Les Clotches de CornvilleThe arrangements for the production of the opera “Les Clotches do Coraville” by  Messrs. Farmer and Imray are now complete, and the promoters anticipate a very emphatic success. The full cast is as follows : Germaine, Miss Keturah Campbell; Serpollette, Miss Zenobia CampbellManette, Mrs. Shanks; Gaspard, Mr. F.Imray; Le Marquis, Mr. A. J. Diamond; Le Bailee, Mr. W. Farmer ; Grenicheux, Mr. A. E. Colebrook; Gobo (Bailee’sclerk), Mr. W. Hobbs; Christophe, MasterCampbell. The first performance will take place at the Oddfellow’s Hall, Fremantle., on April 5 next. It is understood that the opera, will be presented in Perth. It is to be mounted in a thoroughly realistic manner, the dresses being specially prepared, and, in addition to a full chorus, an efficient orchestra has been engaged.


 Source: Mar 23 1887, The West Australian.




Last Monday evening Messrs. Farmer & Imray’s company produced the above mentioned popular opera at S. George’s Hall. The performance was witnessed by a very large audience, the hall being crowded in every part. The performance was quite equal, if not superior, to the representation given in Perth some months ago by the Stanley Opera Troupe. The premier part of ‘Serpolette’ lost nothing in the hands of Miss Zenobia Campbell ; she was in excellent voice and made the best of the opportunities afforded her, but Miss Keturah Campbell was perhaps not so successful in her delineation of the character of ‘Germaine,’ her voice not being powerful enough, for the part entrusted to her. Mr. Colebrook filled the part of ‘ Grenicheux ‘ to perfection, and both his singing and acting deservedly elicited loud applause. ‘Henri, Marquis de Corneville ‘ was entrusted to Mr. Diamond, but that gentleman slightly failed in his part through (no fault of his own of course) suffering apparently from the effects of a severe cold. As ‘ Gaspard,’ Mr. Imray was fairly successful, although he rather overdid his part occasionally; while Mr. Farmer succeeded in exciting the merriment of the audience by his impersonation of the ‘Young Bailee.’ Mr. Hobbs made an excellent ‘ Gobo,’ and his by-play was really most amusing. The chorus sang rather roughly, and not quite in tune, although they, no doubt did their best. The orchestra,’ under the direction of Mr. L. Clifton, did their work well, and contributed in no small degree to the enjoyment of, the audience. No doubt if the company repeated the opera in the same building it would run much more smoothly than it did on Monday, but unfortunately that cannot be done. Taken as a whole the opera was very fairly rendered indeed.

Source: The Daily News Thursday 14 April 1887 from

To read the story behind this opera, check out Wikipedia and the part of Serpolette, played by Zenobia.

And to give you a bit of an idea of the part of Serpolette played by Zenobia, watch this video on YouTube.



THE date for the performance of “The Messiah ” in Fremantle has been fixed for Tuesday, 26th instant. It is understood that this will be the first concert given in the new Town Hall. The net proceeds are to be applied to a fund for the purchase of a grand piano for the use of the Hall. ‘The principal soloists are–Sopranos and contraltos – Mrs. Forbes, Mrs.Barnes. Mrs. Dyer, Mrs. C. L. Clifton, Miss Zenobia Campbell; tenor, Mr. Taylor; bass, Mr. Onslow., The orchestra and chorus (the latter being largely augmented by ladies and gentlemen in Fremantle) will number about 80, and the work will be conducted by Mr. Compton. A plan of the hall will be opened at Messrs. Barr & Topliss’, Fremantle; the  prices of admission have been fixed at 3s., 2s., and ls.

Source: Western Mail Saturday 23 July 1887 pg 23. Column c.

Oddfellows Hall, Fremantle

Zenobia lived in Melbourne, Victoria with Norma after the passing of baby Frederick in Broken Hill, in 1898 until 1908 when she moved to Western Australia. Norma was placed in the Northampton convent, while Zenobia went and worked in hotels as a cook and often in the surveyors camps. She lived on Mumby Farm until her passing on the 18th March, 1946.

Death of Zenobia Lymburner


Zenobia is buried at the Catholic Cemetery in Mary Street, Northampton. Note the date of death is recorded incorrectly on the headstone and she was 76 years of age when she died.

Alice Zenobia Lymburner nee Campbell



About Jenny MacKay

Just a person who is looking forward to retirement and enjoying the golden years!
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